To being with a question: Did Jesus come to bring peace on earth?
Yes, of course! Right from the beginning, from the Christmas story, we hear the angels sing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ (Luke 2:14)
(Not everyone then? Just those whom God favours? Maybe it will turn out that God favours everyone!)
Or, if you want to go back earlier and pick up the verse in Isaiah as a pointer to who Jesus is, he is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus, Prince of Peace
Jesus’ life and ministry are all about bringing peace, aren’t they?
We see it when Jesus meets individuals in need:
And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ (Luke 7:50)
And in his preaching:
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew .9)
When he sends the disciples out to preach:
Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” (Luke 10:5)
Jesus weeps over his city, Jerusalem, and with it, the world:
‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19.42)
And his parting gift to those who put their trust in him is peace:
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’ (John 14.27)
Not Peace, But Division
And yet, in today’s Gospel we read that Jesus says:
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division! (Luke 12.51)
In Matthew’s gospel (Mt 10:34), it’s a sword that Jesus has come to bring, not peace. So what’s that all about then?
When Mary and Joseph take their child into the Temple, they meet the old man, Simeon:
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2:33-35)
Mary’s son, the prince of peace, for all that his life will be an expression of peace, love and compassion, will know that you can’t force peace on others. Jesus, the man of peace is destined to be rejected by those in power, and that will break his mother’s heart. And Jesus will warn that those who follow him will also experience that pain. Families will be divided as some say yes to God’s offer and others reject it.
Peace With God
Peace? Yes – we can have peace with God.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
Peace With Others
We are to strive for peace with others.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12.18)
I love that “so far as it depends on you”. You can do no more!
Peace At The Last
We can look forward to the peace that is promised.
But to have a peaceful life in this world? Given the way the world is, how can anyone be comfortable? We dare not make peace with the world in which we live. Ultimately, peace belongs to the kingdom which is to come.
As Elvis put it so memorably, one day
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me
Or, in the words of John Henry Newman:
May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in His mercy may He give us safe lodging, and a holy rest,
and peace at the last!